What was your first job, and how did you get into IT?
During my degree in business studies, my final placement was at ICL, and here I began as a graduate trainee. I was attracted to IT because it seemed to be a rapidly developing sector with good career prospects.
Planes, trains or automobiles?
Trains, because they are reliable and relaxing. I can listen to music, read, and even do my French homework. That said, I travel to work with my son, who often tells me off for ‘brewing’ at people - for example, at those who put their feet up on the seats. So perhaps trains are not as stress-free as I first thought. Come to think of it, neither is my French homework.
What is the best business trip you have ever experienced?
The Monaco Grand Prix a couple of years ago. We stayed at the Royal Riviera Hotel at Cap Ferrat. We had a 65ft gin palace to ferry us around and corporate hospitality at one of the best and most expensive viewing platforms. Apparently, bumping into the pit girls was popular too, but I couldn’t possibly comment.
Oranges or bananas?
This is an interesting question. I am a little nervous about answering it for fear of a post-answer Freudian psychoanalysis, although I do like a nice banana.
What is the best holiday you have had?
Mauritius in November with my wife, Sarah. It was beautiful, with friendly people. The Four Seasons really knows how to look after you - right down to cleaning your sunglasses on the beach! Our teenagers said it wasn’t their type of holiday, but we maxed out on sport, from tennis and golf, to wakeboarding and sailing.
If you had a week to live, how would you fill it?
I would go back to Mauritius, overdose on sport during the day, and work my way through the Four Seasons’ world-class wine list during the evening, including La Tâche, Petrus and Le Pin. I would be lucky if I survived to the end of the week.
…miss lunch. I ran a worldwide sales team at HP years ago, which was the perfect opportunity to observe different cultural traditions, and I made many of these part of my working life. I always have an espresso at the Italian coffee shop on the way to work, and at lunchtime I have a sit-down meal (and a glass of wine on a Friday).
Your closest near-death experience?
I have had a few. Most recently, it was downhill mountain biking in the Swiss Alps with my son. If you get it very wrong, you can die, but most of the time you just crash into the rocks and break bones that aren’t as resilient as they once were. I found this out the hard way.
What is one thing you miss from being a kid that you no longer do or can do?
Although my wife says I was more mature 30 years ago, there are some limits to what I can do now. I still love sport, but as I get older, the activities that really get the adrenaline pumping are beginning to hurt.
Are IT skills shortages best filled by on-the-job training or formal education?
It depends what you want to do in IT. To develop code, be a consultant or work in technical pre-sales, for example, you need a good technical education that can be started at university. If you want to work in the less technical side, you could do equally well by starting as an intern and working your way up. Some top salespeople learn their skills on the job.
If you had your time again, what would be your next choice of career?
I would turn my passion for music into a career. I love music that most people my age hate: Killing Joke, Slipknot, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Nine Inch Nails, for example. Having said that - during my 27 years in IT, I have really enjoyed building high-performing teams, fixing or building businesses and seeing people I have mentored go on to enjoy greater success. If only I could combine music and IT!
Simon Webster is EMEA vice president and general manager at nLyte Software
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